Jeff Saturday, former All-Pro center for the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers and member of the 2007 Colts Super Bowl championship team, was more than a little surprised recently to be offered the job of interim head coach of his former team by Colts owner Jim Irsay. Irsay approached him in mid-season when head coach Frank Reich was fired after the team’s less-than-stellar 3-5-1 start.
“Shocked would be an understatement,” the 47-year-old Saturday told reporters at the press conference where he was introduced.
Saturday, who gave his life to Christ as a player after a Colts teammate challenged him to attend a team Bible study, made the decision to accept the Colts’ offer the same day Irsay offered him the job.
But not until after praying with this wife, Karen.
“We had the conversation, we talked about it and prayed about it. Then as the day progressed this morning, we finally came to a conclusion. But it was a 12-hour whirlwind,” Saturday told reporters.
Irsay made clear that he considers Saturday to be a leader of men. Saturday picked up on that theme when he spoke:
“I’ve gleaned a lot and I continue to try and grow as a leader, but I think that’s probably my strongest quality, is I’m a leader of men. I don’t shy away from it and [I am] excited about it,” he said. “That’s my passion and I love it. Football just so happens to fit that mold. But that’s what I love — when I can do the two things I love, I can lead a group of men and coach football, I’m not going to say no to that.”
The 14-year NFL veteran-turned-head-coach says that the Bible study he was challenged to attend as a young Colts play challenged him to answer one of life’s ultimate questions: “What defines you as a person?”
“The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t have an answer,” recalls Saturday. “But, Jesus did. I did not have to come up with an identity for myself. Christ had created me with my identity already intact. All I had to do was step into it.”
Since his retirement from the NFL in 2013, Saturday has worked as a consultant for the Colts and also serves as an ESPN analyst. The Colts have previously sought him out to serve as an assistant coach, but things didn’t pan out.
There’s no doubt that Saturday knows what it’s like in the NFL, but his only previous coaching experience is limited to leading a high school football team at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia. That has raised hackles among the NFL’s observers, who have criticized his lack of coaching experience at the NFL level.
Those critics may have to eat their words, however, as Saturday notched his first victory in his first appearance as head coach, which came after a 25-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday.
Saturday, who was once admonished during a game by his own mic’d up quarterback, Peyton Manning, to “quit calling the (expletive) plays, alright?” seems to have coaching in his DNA.
And with his identity firmly grounded in Christ, Saturday will be a success, no matter what the Colts do for the rest of the season.
Photo from Getty.